A study in the journal Nature reveals that a drug has been used in research on mice to make hearts repair themselves, BBC News reported.
The drug, thymosin beta 4, appears to “prime” the heart for repair when it is used in advance of a heart attack.
While the drug’s use in humans is believed to be years away, the British Heart Foundation characterizes repair as the “holy grail of heart research,” the story reports.
Damage from heart attack has traditionally been considered permanent, the story notes. While health care advances have led to a decline in the number of people dying from coronary heart disease, the number who are living with heart failure has been rising, according to the report.
The story describes the research as follows: “In adults epicardium-derived progenitor cells line the heart, but have become dormant. Scientists used a chemical, thymosin beta 4, to ‘wake them up.’ Professor Paul Riley, from the University College London, said: ‘The adult epicardial cells which line the muscle of the heart can be activated, move inward and give rise to new heart muscle. We saw an improvement in the ejection fraction, in the ability of the heart to pump out blood, of 25%.’ As well as pumping more blood, the scar tissue was reduced and the walls of the heart became thicker.”